”My question to you is: Will you become part of the solution or not?”
Thanks to ClimateHero, the members of We Don't Have Time have reduced 3 000 tons of carbon per year. In 2021 the two partners aim for a twentyfold increase in reduction numbers — while influencing millions more along the way.
Robert Sabelström is as Swedish serial entrepreneur who has been involved in founding three start-ups, lead a recycling company in Poland, served as a management consultant, and written a book about growth hacking.
For years Robert has also been a keen surfer, and indirectly this is the reason why he founded ClimateHero. Surfing, although not a carbon-intensive sport on its own, turned Robert into a climate villain. The first time he calculated his own climate footprint, in 2017, he weighed in at almost 20 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
”A large part of my carbon footprint came from air travel. I used to do at least four surf trips a year, where at least one included a distant destination, such as Australia. These trips were an incredibly important part of my lifestyle and I would never have imagined stopping flying, until I tried”, he says.
Today Robert surf almost as many days a year as he used to do, but more often in colder water. Last year he still had one flight within Europe per year in his climate budget, but otherwise he has learned to calm his surf addiction by surfing more locally.
”When you think about it, it’s really crazy that it would take me 15 years and countless laps around the world before I discovered that there is fantastic surfing on Denmark’s west coast. And I am even more surprised by how fun surfing can be in the Baltic sea, during autumn and winter storms.”
That first carbon calculation three years ago not only made him change his life-style. It also sparked a business idea.
”Carbon calculators are not any new invention, they have been around for more than ten years. But they have been developed by researchers and environmental organizations, and they have had a bad user experience and used a tonality of alarmism and shaming. ‘Robert, you live as if we had 4,2 planets’ is for example a final message you receive. That does not work. It does not empower me to start changing my habits.”
So he decided ClimateHero should do the opposite, and build on positive psychology to help people initiate a low carbon diet.
By answering a few simple questions on the website, you can calculate your carbon footprint in just five minutes. You will then receive feedback on what you’re already doing good, and get personalized tips on how to reduce your footprint further.
So far this has been a success on both a personal and business level. Robert himself has reduced his own footprint from 20 tons to 2,5 in just three years time. (See the fact box below to learn how he did it.) And his company has just reached the 100 000 user milestone.
”We have so far been able to more than double our user base every year. That is the minimum requirement also for 2021 as well, scaling from 100 k to 200 k users”, says Robert Sabelström.
Climate Hero joined forces with We Don’t Have Time early on. This is why each member of the We Don’t Have Time platform has a link to the carbon calculator on the profile page.
So far, without any kind of marketing, 1 500 We Don’t have Time members have used ClimateHero. This has reduced 3 000 tons of carbon per year, which gives the same effect as removing 2 000 diesel cars from our roads.
” We have agreed on a mutual target of 10 000 users for 2021, meaning that at least 10 000 We Don’t Have Time users, who currently don’t use ClimateHero would calculate their carbon footprint with ClimateHero. And on the flip side, that at least 10 000 ClimateHero users, who don’t use We Don’t Have Time today, will be onboarded. It’s a win-win for everyone”, says Robert Sabelström.
Ingmar Rentzhog, founder and CEO of We Don’t Have Time, couldn’t agree more. The key to success, he says, is influencing climate action in society.
”If, on a personal level, you can reduce two tons of carbon, and then make 10 000 more follow your example, well, there you go. That’s the solution.”
ClimateHero is now becoming an official partner to We Don’t Have Time, which means the company will have its own Climate Dialogue page on the platform. Robert Sabelström looks forward to it.
” First of all it will be an additional channel where we can share news and content with a super relevant audience. Secondly, it will be a great channel to gather feedback from our most engaged users, which we currently just do via email.”
Carbon offsetting is regularly being criticized for providing a shortcut for companies and individuals to reach reduction goals without actually making efforts to reduce their own emissions.
Robert Sabelstöm calls it green-washing when a company pledges to go net-zero at a certain year without reducing their own emissions in accordance with the carbon law.
”The important thing is that carbon offsetting shall never be used to defend the status quo. It should be the third action taken, after first calculating and starting to reduce your carbon footprint. It does not matter if you are an individual, a city, a country or a company. Your obligation is to reduce your carbon footprint according to the ‘carbon law’. That means at least halving emissions every decade, where the first halving by 2030 is the most important.”
But he also argues that we can’t wait until 2050 to take full responsibility for the emissions we cannot immediately reduce.
”Instead start already today to balance out your remaining footprint by financing climate-positive projects elsewhere on earth.
In the end, he says, it’s a matter of deciding what kind of person you want to be.
”My question to you is what time do you live in? Are you still part of the fossil-fueled mass consumption society that is causing the planet to collapse? Or have you decided to become part of the solution? If you want to be a part of the solution, then a good first step is to calculate and understand your carbon footprint and then take the first steps to reduce it. My hope is that after you have finished reading this, that you will use ClimateHero and do just that.”
FACT BOX: How Robert Sabelström cut his footprint from 20 tons per year to 2,5.
”I admit that cutting back on air travel has at times felt self-sacrificing. But the other measures I have taken to reduce my climate footprint have actually only improved my quality of life. Being car-free is one such example. Today I usually get around by bike and am in much better shape. For longer trips, I go by train or use a car pool. Not owning a car is amazing. Never again will I change winter tires, clean, administer parking, or care about residual value. I am also looking forward to a future where the cars drive by themselves, so we can skip all parking spaces in the inner city.”
”I have not gone all the way to plant-based only, but I follow the planetary guidelines that exist around sustainable food consumption, which means that about half of my meals are completely vegetarian. The realization that meat from cows and lambs has 10 times as high a climate footprint as poultry and fish has also made me treat beef as a luxury item, something I eat at most once a month.”
”I have become a proud food waste hunter. Of all food produced, 40% ends up as waste, half of the waste occurs in the manufacturing and distribution stages and half occurs at home in your kitchen.
Today it is like a competition for me to throw away as little food as possible. It is above all a question of attitude. To challenge yourself to be proactive in freezing food and be creative enough to run a “residual food party” from time to time. As a parent, my best trick is to start with a smaller portion for myself and then compensate for the fact that my children are not quite as polished in the food waste hunting sport yet.”
”I have completely changed my attitude to consumption. The way we constantly buy new clothes and gadgets is completely unsustainable. It hardly matters if you take responsibility and recycle the products, the biggest environmental damage already occurs in production.
Today, I visit the tailor, the bicycle workshop and the electronics workshop, much more often than any store. I get the same “kick” from mending something that I once got from shopping new stuff, but the feeling goes deeper. Repairing and maintaining what we already have is the first cornerstone of the circular economy. The other is to reuse. Today I usually start my customer journey by looking at 2nd hand site like EBasy and Facebook Market. Yes, it’s still a little messier to buy used goods than to buy new ones, but it’s much better for both my wallet and the environment. Furthermore, it no longer feels so meaningful to own things at all. Most things can be borrowed, rented or ‘co-owned’. That is the future and it has already begun.”